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How to subscribe to Xbox and PC Game Pass

What you get with each paid tier of Microsoft’s popular game subscription service

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Artwork from Ark Survival Evolved, Halo, Hellblade, and Gears 5 to promote Xbox Game Pass PC Image: Microsoft
Alice Newcome-Beill (she/her) is a commerce writer, and she has been writing about gaming and tech since 2005. Prior to Polygon, she worked at publications such as The Verge.

It’s a running joke that, due to Game Pass being a seriously good deal, it’s hard not to sound like a shill for Microsoft when talking about it. But when stacked against competing services, including PlayStation Plus, and to a lesser extent, Nintendo Switch Online, Game Pass is inarguably a good value. It offers subscribers a rotating catalog of good games, including AAA-tier games (including Forza Motorsport and Starfield) and many great indie titles. You can also get exclusive deals on titles you want to make a permanent part of your library.

In case you aren’t already a Game Pass subscriber, we made this post containing everything you need to know about the several perks and games that come with each subscription, and how much it costs to subscribe. We’ve included recent information on the Game Pass Core tier, which offers fewer games than the previous base tier, but includes online multiplayer.

Xbox Game Pass Core

  • $9.99 per month, or $59.99 when paid annually
  • Available on Xbox One, Series X, and Series S consoles
  • Includes online multiplayer
  • Instant access to “over 25 games”
  • Exclusive discounts and deals

Microsoft announced a new base tier of Game Pass that’s launching on Sept. 14. Game Pass Core costs $9.99 per month (or $59.99 per year if you pay annually), and it differs mainly from the $10.99 with its game library, which is much smaller. It aims to offer just a taste of what you can get on Xbox, with a couple dozen games instead of hundreds offered in other tiers of Game Pass.

Microsoft promises that new games will be added 2 to 3 times a year, so this tier definitely isn’t for those who play the latest games, like Starfield, on launch day. However, unlike the $10.99 tier, this includes the ability to play games online.

The subscription will take the place of Xbox Live Gold, and current subscribers will be migrated to Game Pass Core. On Sept. 1 the Games with Gold program that gives members free games on a monthly basis will terminate. We’ll update this section with the confirmed list of games and features closer to Game Pass Core’s launch.

Xbox Game Pass

  • $10.99 per month
  • Available on Xbox One, Series X, and Series S consoles
  • Instant access to new Xbox Game Studio releases
  • Exclusive discounts and deals
  • Does not include online multiplayer
  • Includes Riot Game Pass benefits

The console-exclusive version of Game Pass, simply called Xbox Game Pass, has a membership fee of $10.99 per month. This version of Game Pass is available on Xbox One, or the Xbox Series X or Series S, and it gives you access to the same library of titles that can be accessed by the slightly pricier Game Pass Ultimate subscription. It lacks online multiplayer access for most games (Fortnite doesn’t require a subscription of any kind to play online, for example). However, you’ll still get access to the same discounts on titles you may want to buy.

Riot Games also includes additional benefits for Game Pass subscribers in the form of in-game bonuses, which include XP boosts, and access to new characters for games like Valorant, League of Legends, and Teamfight Tactics.

PC Game Pass

  • $9.99 per month
  • Available on Windows 10/11 PCs
  • Instant access to new Xbox Game Studio releases
  • Exclusive discounts and deals
  • Includes Riot Game Pass benefits
  • Includes standard EA Play Membership (normally $4.99 per month)

PC Game Pass costs a little less than the console-exclusive version of Game Pass ($10.99), but shares many of the same benefits. While PC Game Pass doesn’t technically include an Xbox Live Gold membership, you don’t need it to play online for free (that’s one serious benefit of playing games on PC in general)

One key addition to PC Game Pass is an EA Play membership. EA Play is similar to Game Pass in that it offers unlimited access to a library of EA properties, like Madden, FIFA, The Sims, and more, plus a 10% discount on anything in the EA Play library. EA Play members also have the opportunity to play game trials for select EA games for up to 10 hours before committing to a purchase. It’s a pretty nice perk to have this looped into the subscription.

Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

  • $16.99 per month
  • Available on Windows 10/11 PCs and Xbox Consoles
  • Instant access to new Xbox Game Studio releases
  • Exclusive discounts and deals
  • Includes Riot Game Pass benefits
  • Includes standard EA Play Membership (normally $4.99 / Month)
  • Includes online multiplayer
  • Includes Xbox Cloud Gaming access

Game Pass Ultimate bundles all the benefits from other Game Pass tiers, and includes a membership to Xbox Live Gold for online multiplayer. This allows you to play online with friends and strangers on your console, plus additional freebies that you can keep in your collection as long as you remain a subscriber. It also grants you the ability to stream Xbox games to your mobile device or PC, which is handy if you travel frequently.

Xbox Cloud Gaming allows you to stream hundreds of titles directly to your PC, Android device, or iPhone, provided you have a strong internet connection. Some games support using a touchscreen as a controller, or you can connect a controller for a more console-like experience. If you’re on a phone, the Backbone One is a great option, as is simply connecting a wireless Xbox controller over Bluetooth.

Cloud gaming is still a work in progress, as it relies heavily on a strong and consistent internet connection for an optimal experience. Regardless, it’s still a cool way to experience games on the go, namely those you might not otherwise have access to, like older Xbox-exclusive bangers like Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, or Blinx: The Time Sweeper.

Update (July 20): Updated to reflect the announcement of Game Pass Core.

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